About 10 kilometers south of Algarrobo, Isla Negra—which is not an island—has become famous for the Casa de Pablo Neruda, the poet’s favorite beachfront house and burial site. Built to entertain his friends and hold his whimsical collections of nautical memorabilia, including bowsprits, ships-in-bottles, and wood carvings, the house has been open to the public for more than a decade.
The Fundación Neruda, which administers the site, has added a room originally planned by Neruda but never completed, to house his huge assortment of sea snails, clam shells, and narwhal spikes.
Unfortunately, because Isla Negra is Neruda’s most popular house, the half-hour guided tours are so rushed that the guides sometimes find themselves talking over each other. No photography is permitted in the house itself, but after the tour is over, visitors may remain on the grounds and photograph the exterior.
In summer, reservations are imperative at Isla Negra (tel. 035/461284, www.fundacionneruda.org), which is open 10 a.m.–8 p.m. daily except Monday. The rest of the year, when hours are 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and 3–6 p.m. daily except Monday, it’s easier to join a tour on a drop-in basis. Admission, including the tour, costs US$5.50 for adults, half that for children and seniors, but tours in English or French cost about US$2 per person more.
Most people come to Isla Negra for the day, but the accommodations at Casa Azul (Av. Santa Lucía s/n, tel. 098/9030420, casazul74 [at] hotmail [dot] com, US$13 pp with breakfast) have drawn praise from several travelers. The Fundación Neruda’s own El Rincón del Poeta (tel. 035/461774) has good seafood lunches for about US$7–8.
Down the road, Hostería La Candela (Calle de la Hostería 67, tel. 035/461254, www.candela.cl, US$56/70 s/d–US$90 s or d) belongs to people who befriended Neruda in his later years. Past its prime, but still interesting, the rambling building also has a restaurant. The pricier rooms are more spacious and have ocean views.
From Valparaíso, Pullman Bus (tel. 0322/224025) stops at Isla Negra (US$3.50, 1.5 hours) en route to San Antonio, frequently between 6:20 a.m. and 10 p.m.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition